- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Caffeine crusader Rick Young is working hard to perk up interest in a proposal to jail restaurateurs if their coffee isn't certified fair trade, shade-grown or organic.
The question is, is this conscience in a cup, or Big Brother brewing?
"I talk to some people who say, 'I like it, my friends like it,' and then I talk to other people who say it's never, ever going to pass," Mr. Young said.
His proposal on the Berkeley ballot wouldn't govern what people drink at home. But it would make it a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail, for anyone to sell brewed coffee that wasn't made from the right kind of beans.
The law would define acceptable coffee as certified organic, meaning grown without chemicals; shade-grown, meaning grown under trees that protect the soil and provide bird habitat; or fair trade, meaning growers received at least $1.26 a pound $1.41 a pound for organic.
A worldwide coffee glut has driven prices so low that some growers get as little as 20 cents a pound, far less than the cost of production.
Mr. Young sees his proposal as a logical step for Berkeley residents, who are as passionate for good coffee as they are for good causes.
But opponents say the proposal is a misguided and heavy-handed effort that will stifle consumer choice and push up prices. The measure also could create a new class of criminals.
"I wouldn't want one minute of our city's law-enforcement time to be spent on coffee," City Council member Polly Armstrong said. "In this world of things to worry about, that's not high on my list."


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